Tavern of Terror vol. 5: Short Horror Stories Anthology
Tavern of Terror vol. 5: Short Horror Stories Anthology
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Welcome to horror happy hour…
Two greedy brothers receive a chilling surprise when they try to take advantage of a homeless man. Something in the backyard wrecks vengeance when burglars break into a family's secluded home. And poker night takes a different turn when one of the players fall victim to murder…
Have a seat, warm yourself by the fire, and enjoy a drink at Hannigan’s, the tavern of a thousand tales. This sinister collection presents twelve brand new bone-chilling tales, each one guaranteed to send a shiver down your spine.
But why stop with just one? When the sun goes down, the Hannigan’s happy hour begins. Two screams for the price of one. Or is it three? Maybe four?
For this ghoulish crowd, the thirst for fear is never-ending. And when it comes to shrieks of terror on this cold winter night, well, you know what they say.
The more, the merrier…
Under The Ice
Kingsley shuddered in pain as he sunk into the icy water. The beam of the lighthouse swept through the hazy gloom. Sporadically, the clouds parted just enough for it to sparkle off the frost. The freak cold snap had rolled in overnight and blanketed the town in snow. No one had been prepared. Ships still dotted the harbor; some now tipped at odd angles by the crushing ice.
Businesses and schools were shut down, and people flooded outdoors to enjoy the winter wonderland. Kids and adults had formed pickup games of hockey. Skaters and ice fishermen covered the landscape. Even Hannigan’s was taking the chance to turn a profit. They had set up alongside a few other vendors to sell apple cider. However, Kingsley was sure that the hot toddies were responsible for the crowd. As the frigid water sloshed around his chest, Kingsley deeply regretted agreeing to this.
Lucy was a long-time member of the Polar Bear Club—a group that met every winter to swim beneath the ice. She was their safety diver. The one who ensured that no one ventured too far from the guide rope. Every year, she tried to convince them to give it a try. Caught up in the excitement of the snap freeze, Kingsley had been dumb enough to agree. He eyed the hole he was supposed to emerge from. It seemed miles off now that he was in the water. The wetsuit barely fought back the cold. It did just enough to keep him functioning.
“That is the look of a man rethinking all his life choices.” Cordelia chuckled.
“It’s easy to laugh when wrapped in a blanket.” Kingsley was surprised that his teeth weren’t chattering uncontrollably.
Brian knelt beside Cordelia. He was also wrapped in a ridiculously plush blanket, water dripping from his still-damp hair.
“It’s not so bad once you get down there,” Brian reassured. “The view is pretty cool.”
“Are you going to go again?” Kingsley asked.
Brian snorted. “Oh, no, I’m not crazy.”
“Comforting,” Kingsley said.
Cordelia waved her hand out of the tangled blanket to pat Kingsley’s shoulder. “You’ll survive. What’s the worst that can happen?”
“I get trapped, and the tide grinds me against the sharp underside of the ice.”
“Been thinking about that a lot, Kingsley?” Cordelia smiled.
“Hard not to.”
“Lucy is down there,” Brian reminded.
Kingsley felt some of the tension ease out of his shoulders. Years of friendship had taught him never to underestimate Lucy. The woman was far too stubborn to fail. Before he could respond, the group leader called from the other hole.
“Okay, Kingsley! We’re ready for you! Deep breath, firm grip on the rope, and keep kicking!”
Kingsley stalled by fussing with his swimming goggles, making them fit just right. But that didn’t last long. Taking a deep breath, he braced for the pain and dived beneath the surface. It still caught him off guard. His eyes screwed shut against the sudden onslaught. He felt like one of the ships being crushed by the brutal cold. Gathering his senses, he forced his eyes open and looked around.
The sight was terrifyingly beautiful. Just enough light penetrated the ice to cast the world in a dozen shades of blue. Above, the ice rolled like frozen storm clouds. Below was nothing but darkness. Sinking lower to avoid the clustered spikes, he carefully watched the abyss. It seemed to reach for the lazily moving tips of his flippers. There had never been a chance he would be able to see the bottom of the harbor. It was too deep for that. Still, the utter darkness was unnerving. It almost felt like the gaping jaws of a colossal beast. When he looked down, he felt like he was about to be eaten alive.
The building pressure in his lungs snapped him out of his daze. He glanced down at the length of the rope. The hole seemed miles away now that the bitter cold was pressing against his wetsuit. If he was going to make it without Lucy’s help, he needed to get moving. He could barely feel the rope through his thick rubbery glove. Still, he tightened his grip and began to swim.
The underside of the ice was a mazework of crystal daggers. It seemed to him that it should have sheered the rope by now. It’ll snap, and I’ll fall into the abyss. The thought burrowed into his brain, and no amount of logic would dislodge it. He couldn’t stop thinking about plummeting into the darkness. It made him pull on the rope and drift closer to the sharp icicles. His fist scraped against one. It was an odd sensation. And it surprised him that he still had enough warmth left to feel the chill. He was halfway there. His lungs burned, and his muscles ached.
Then, something brushed against his leg.
Kingsley whipped around.
Floating in the subtle undercurrents, he glanced around him. He was under a pocket of thinner ice. The increased sunlight penetration brightened the blue glow. And it deepened the scattered shadows. He was growing desperate for air, and the chill was seeping into his bones.
Turning to leave, he felt the shift in the water again. Bubbles. They rolled over his shins and disappeared against the ice. Kingsley peered down into the darkness, heart pounding, looking for the source. Is something down there? Can it see me? It struck him that he didn’t know much about the harbor’s aquatic life.
Light rippled off a cluster of bubbles that drifted from the depths. They came from directly below him. Instantly panicked, he thrashed, trying to get up and away from whatever was down there. The back of his head cracked against an icicle. The pain had him gasping on reflex. All the warmth seemed to leave his body as frigid water gushed past his numb lips. Choking, trembling, and in pain, he batted against the ice. The rope slipped from his hand. As he groped for it, he ran into another spike. The rubber hood of his wetsuit protected his skin. It didn’t cut him, but it hurt like hell.
Something grabbed his arm, and he instantly tried to pull away. Lucy kept her hold and shook him until he focused. The scuba gear hid most of her face. Still, he could feel her questioning him. Lucy pulled her mouthpiece out with her free hand and offered it to him. It took him a second to remember how to push the water out of his mouth. The quick instruction made it sound easy.
His head was spinning before he managed to draw in a decent breath. Nothing had ever been as soothing as the oxygen hitting his lungs. Savoring the sensation, he felt his mind calm. The oppressive cold kept him from being able to think clearly, but his terror faded. Lucy needs air, too, he remembered.
Taking one last breath, he offered her the mouthpiece back. Something moved behind her shoulder. It was fast. The dark mass disappeared among the ice splinters before Kingsley got a decent look at it. But it had been there. And he had no idea what he had glimpsed.
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